In Retrospect (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
One of the most painful and divisive episodes in recent American history was the war in Vietnam, and perhaps no one was more deeply involved in the day-to-day war decisions than Robert McNamara, secretary of defense from 1961 to 1968. Yet for more than twenty-five years he declined to speak publicly about America’s humiliating military defeat. In this book, McNamara explains just how the intelligent, talented, and well-meaning individuals who made up the inner circle of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations—“the best and the brightest,” as they have been called—got it wrong in Vietnam. He believes that he now owes it to the American people to explain why.
During the Kennedy years, McNamara says, the administration operated on two basic assumptions: that the fall of South Vietnam to Communism would threaten the security of the United States and the world, and that the South Vietnamese should assume the major part of the burden of defending their country. The first assumption was a legacy of the Cold War, as Communist countries, especially the Soviet Union and Communist China, attempted to expand their spheres of influence. President Harry S Truman had proclaimed in his historic “Truman Doctrine” that the United States was committed to halting the spread of Communism anywhere in the world, and his successor in the White House, Dwight D. Eisenhower, subscribed to what he called the “domino theory,” which predicted that the fall of small,...
(The entire section is 1856 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!